In search of meaningful work in Halifax
By Marianne Simon 5 October 2020 Share this story
Most people don’t understand how hard it is for a newcomer to Canada to find meaningful employment. The list of disadvantages is long. Among them are language barriers and discovering that their skills, qualifications, and work experience often mean little to Canadian employers. And the pandemic has clobbered many businesses, meaning fewer are hiring.
Potential employers expect newcomers to speak Canadian English, which is a tall order for many. People are often very conscious of the way a newcomer speaks. I often wonder why new immigrants are not given the freedom to speak English the way they are used to, as long as they speak understandably.
In India, I was a teacher, writer, and newspaper subeditor. Since coming to Halifax almost three years ago, I’ve tried to find a suitable job. I picked up part-time casual work here and there but that didn’t give me satisfaction or enough pay to live a comfortable life. It was disappointing.
I came here with a heart full of hope and dreams of making it big in this new country. Before coming here, I had no doubts about finding work in Halifax. To an Indian, living in Canada means living well.
The outside world sees Canada as a place of prosperity and tolerance. But new immigrants experience neither. They wake up to the harsh reality that even a well-qualified person can get only an entry level job at minimum wage. Some employers don’t pay even that much.
Another obstacle I faced was the expectation that I would do volunteer work or internships without the guarantee of a paid job. This isn’t right. In India and in many other countries, apprentices get at least some pocket money for their work while in training. Depriving them of such support is inhuman, but immigrants often face these demands.
Canada is a place where immigrants who bring in large sums of money can thrive and prosper. This is a land flowing with milk and honey only when you have the finances to back you up.
But many newcomers don’t have that kind of money and so they are reduced to a hand-to-mouth existence. They don’t have the luxury of finding work suitable to their skills and experience and resort to any available job. This leads to heartache and frustration.
I often wonder if I had made the right decision coming to Canada. It took a lot of courage saying goodbye to a comfortable life and an established career in India. I hoped that I would find similar work here.
But that dream never materialized. I wanted to be an editor and write more children’s stories. But job searching is a full-time occupation and I did not find the time to do anything else. I even contemplated going back to India and picking up the threads of my old life.
Memories of life in India are sweet. I enjoyed my work as a fully qualified teacher with many years of successful teaching experience, then a career as a newspaper subeditor. The small but comfortable office overlooking the Indian Ocean and the distant green hills provided a perfect setting for my intellectual activities. I was inspired to write. Creativity bloomed. There was beauty all around me. And I was able to convey my thoughts and feelings to my readers.
Although my work was hectic, the stress was never unmanageable. I felt that there was a balance. Life was stable and there were no financial worries. I was doing work I loved and it made a big difference in my mental state.
I want a balanced life that gives me satisfaction and security, the ability to contribute to the welfare of my family and the community. What are the chances of fulfilling these desires in Halifax? I believe this will be possible only if I have a full-time and meaningful work. And I hope to find it soon.
How can Canada help immigrants before they leave their home country? Give a true picture of what they can expect when they come to Canada. Tell them how their qualifications are valued and about the high cost of living here. Above all, tell them what kind of jobs they can get when they land here. This knowledge will help them to decide whether Canada is really a fit for them.
I’m not unhappy to be in Canada. I still believe I can build a comfortable life here, even if doing so is far harder than I imagined. Hope springs eternal, as they say.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.
Marianne Simon is a writer and subeditor and has published many children’s stories, articles and poems in magazines and newspapers. Her interests include teaching and conducting English-conversation classes.
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